8 big questions for tech in 2022
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8 big questions for tech in 2022

Source Code

Good morning and happy new year! This Monday we’re looking at what the year has in store for tech and why AirTags are making some people nervous. I’m David Pierce, and my New Year’s resolution is to eat less candy. Not no candy, to be clear. Just less. And mostly gummy bears.

What 2022 holds for tech

It's obviously impossible to predict the year to come, and that feels especially true in tech. Good luck finding the set of 2021 predictions that heavily featured GameStop, dogecoin, Facebook changing its name, Gary Gensler, omicron and … well, you get the idea. If you'd just written "EVERYTHING WILL BE WILD ALWAYS" you'd have had a more accurate set of 2021 predictions than most.

But in the year to come, the tech industry is set to face big change, big controversies and maybe even a total overhaul in what we mean by "the tech industry." So rather than predict the future, here are eight of the biggest questions facing the tech industry — and, incidentally, the questions you'll see us return to often this year in Source Code. These won't be the only things that matter, but they're definitely going to matter.

  • Will regulators regulate? After countless hearings, lots of proposed bills that never had a chance, a few genuinely important judicial decisions and antitrust rulings, it looks like 2022 could be the year tech regulation — on privacy, antitrust, crypto, global trade and more — shifts from "a thing we argue about" to a real thing with real effects. (Count on agencies like the FTC and SEC to lead that charge.)
  • What can tech do about the climate? Huge amounts of money are being put into climate-tech companies, and tech giants are having to scramble to meet ambitious sustainability goals. Questions about energy use are coming for everybody, from Uber to Coinbase. There's no doubt that the fight against climate change is the story of the next decade — and tech's focus on it will grow massively this year.
  • Is Web3 ready for prime time? Call it "blockchain," call it "crypto," call it whatever you want: 2022 will be the year the decentralized future of everything — No overlords! Distributed ownership! No censorship! — either makes real moves toward becoming a mainstream, understandable, usable, more-than-a-Twitter-thread thing, or it doesn't. Crypto and Web3 are still mostly for a loud, savvy few, and a lot of people in tech will try to change that this year.
  • What does the metaverse look like? Let's be clear: 2022 will not be the year we all move our lives into headsets and ditch the meatspace for the metaverse. But it will be the year important players decide on standards for how the metaverse will work. Is it one thing, like the web? Or is it many things, like apps? Who's in charge? What are the rules? These answers will have ripple effects for decades, and the conversations are happening now.
  • How long will the chip shortage last? At some point this year, it seems likely that the semiconductor industry will be back to full production. But that's hardly a guarantee, and it's not even the whole story. Companies have changed product plans, overhauled their supply chains and reorganized their roadmaps in ways that will take years to play out.
  • How global is the tech industry? China increasingly appears to want little to do with the so-called "global internet." India, which many companies have spent years focused on, may be closing its borders a bit as well. And countries around the world are developing their own rules of the internet road, many of which look radically different. So much tech has grown on the idea that a single platform or service can work for everyone, everywhere. 2022 will be an important test of how true that really is, and how companies need to adapt.
  • What's the post-normal future of work? There is no "return to normal" anymore. There's not even a "new normal." There are only questions about what work looks like going forward: how companies find, hire, pay and onboard employees; how work gets done and how success is measured; how workers get the training and reskilling they need; and how gig work and freelancing mix with the 9-5.
  • Which companies are the next big things? A couple of years ago, TikTok and Shopify were interesting upstarts. Now they're giants, competing with — and increasingly starting to win against — companies like Amazon and Meta that once seemed untouchable. Will there be more this year? Can Zoom become the true future-of-communication tool it seemed poised to be a year ago? Can Block rule the crypto world? Can Niantic or Roblox or Epic dominate the metaverse? There are billions — trillions, even — for any company ready to step up big.

Whether 2022 turns out to be "2020 Part Three: Return of the 2020" or the beginning of a brand new, post-pandemic world, it's going to be a year full of change in tech. And that change will be felt far outside of Silicon Valley, as what happens in the tech industry continues to affect companies and industries around the world. Just to name one fun example: Think about how the race to outdo Tesla for EV supremacy will change everything from the oil industry to the mechanic industry to the gas-station-convenience-store industry.

And, of course, there'll be something else that comes up and steals focus, a la GameStop or the Facebook Papers. It's always interesting times in the tech industry. Happy new year, and thanks again for being with us in 2022!

You tell us: What are your big questions for tech in 2022? Or, if you're feeling bold, what's your biggest, brashest prediction for the year? Reply to this email, or send a note to sourcecode@protocol.com, and tell us what's on your mind.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM TRELLO

Michael Pryor, co-founder of Trello (now a part of Atlassian), explains what he's learned along the way and his advice for other companies that are looking to build a truly collaborative culture that keeps employees feeling connected — from wherever they choose to work.

Learn more

People are talking

Square Enix’s Yosuke Matsuda thinks the metaverse will become less abstract this year:

  • “The metaverse will likely see a meaningful transition to a business phase in 2022, with a wide range of services appearing on the scene.”
Our current supply-chain problems were a long time coming, said Flexport's Ryan Petersen:
  • "In hindsight, the signs were there for years. Almost no logistics companies can show you where your freight is in real-time on a map. Most data is exchanged in unstructured email messages with attachments."
Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin did an interesting self-review on a decade of ideas, and came away with a renewed belief in crypto simplicity:
  • "Today the Ethereum research team values simplicity much more — both simplicity of the final design *and* simplicity of the path to getting there. More appreciation of pragmatic compromises."

Coming this week

The White House’s vaccine mandate goes into effect tomorrow. The rule applies to all large employers.

CES starts on Wednesday. The Las Vegas trade show is closing a day early, though, and tons of big companies have dropped out over the past few weeks. Nothing can stop the flood of news about big TVs, though.

In other news

Another one bites the dust. Twitter permanently suspended one of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's accounts, which has more than 460,000 followers, for violating Twitter’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. She still has access to her official congressional account.

Tesla is recalling thousands of cars. The company is ordering back over 475,000 Model 3 and Model S cars in the U.S., representing nearly half the cars Tesla has ever sold in the country.

But Tesla also had a big year for car deliveries. The company shipped nearly 1 million cars in 2021 and wrapped up its fourth quarter with over 300,000 deliveries.

AT&T and Verizon want to implement new 5G services on Wednesday, but the FAA wants to postpone the launch to study 5G's impact on air traffic. The carriers offered to compromise by reducing the strength of the new signal for six months.

Airbnb is hiding guests’ names until they’ve been confirmed. The policy change is only happening in Oregon at the moment, and it’s intended to fight discrimination.

People are getting nervous about Apple AirTags, sources told The New York Times. Privacy groups have already raised concerns about the tracking device, but now people say they’re being tracked after having found AirTags on their cars and in their stuff.

Which IPOs are in the works this year? From Reddit to Instacart, Protocol put together a list of companies that have a good chance of going public, firms that have talked about going public and companies that people wish would IPO already.

What’s your New Year’s resolution?

If you’re unsure about what changes you want to make in 2022, maybe the resolutions made by some tech leaders will help inspire you. We asked a handful of execs what they want to accomplish this year, both personally and professionally.

DigitalOcean’s Yancey Spruill wants to live in the moment more, and Airbnb’s Catherine Powell hopes to explore more of the U.S. Google’s Melonie Parker has resolved not to work on weekends, and Streamlytics’ Angela Benton will continue to enforce meeting-less Mondays and Fridays.

A MESSAGE FROM TRELLO

Michael Pryor, co-founder of Trello (now a part of Atlassian), explains what he's learned along the way and his advice for other companies that are looking to build a truly collaborative culture that keeps employees feeling connected — from wherever they choose to work.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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